NASA picks two IU devices to go to Mars

Dec 15, 2004
NASA picks two IU devices to go to Mars

Two of the eight instruments selected to go on a Mars rover have Indiana University Bloomington geologists behind them, NASA announced yesterday.
One of the devices will provide scientists with a closer look at Mars -- literally. The other will tell us, for the first time, what Mars is actually made of.

Photo: This artist's conception shows the NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover exploring a canyon plateau. (NASA/JPL)

The rover mission is named Mars Science Laboratory and currently is slated for Earth launch in 2009, Mars arrival in 2010. The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, which will "deliver a mobile laboratory to the surface of Mars to explore a local region as a potential habitat for past or present life," according to NASA's press release.

Despite decades of study, scientists still don't know what rocks make up Mars' surface, let alone the strata underneath. Scientists know roughly what elements exist on Mars but not how they're organized in minerals and rocks. To begin addressing that deficiency, IUB geologist David Bish is working with colleagues from Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA's Ames Research Center and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop a miniature "x-ray diffractometer" that can parse the Martian surface. Typical x-ray diffractometers are the size of large refrigerators -- way too big for NASA's diminutive rovers. So far, the team has gotten the device down to toaster-size, which is, remarkably, still too big.

"We've got to get the diffractometer down to the size of a Coke can," said Bish, a recent Los Alamos emigre who holds the Haydn Murray Chair in applied clay mineralogy. "I think we can do it in time to get the device on a 2009 mission."

IUB sedimentologist Juergen Schieber's contribution to Mars Science Lab will be a wide-angle microscopic camera for imaging rocks, soil, frost and ice at resolutions never before achieved. Schieber will be working with Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems on the project.

Source: Indiana University

Explore further: India tests long-range missile from mobile launcher

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dawn spacecraft captures best-ever view of dwarf planet

Jan 27, 2015

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the sharpest images ever seen of the dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on Jan. 25, and represent a new milestone for ...

Hands-on with Microsoft's hologram device

Jan 23, 2015

Microsoft didn't use skydivers or stunt cyclists to introduce what it hopes will be the next big leap in computing technology. Instead, with its new HoloLens headset, the company is offering real-world examples ...

Gullies on Vesta suggest past water-mobilized flows

Jan 23, 2015

(Phys.org)—Protoplanet Vesta, visited by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from 2011 to 2013, was once thought to be completely dry, incapable of retaining water because of the low temperatures and pressures at its ...

Dawn delivers new image of Ceres

Jan 19, 2015

(Phys.org)—As NASA's Dawn spacecraft closes in on Ceres, new images show the dwarf planet at 27 pixels across, about three times better than the calibration images taken in early December. These are the ...

Recommended for you

Planck: Gravitational waves remain elusive

21 hours ago

Despite earlier reports of a possible detection, a joint analysis of data from ESA's Planck satellite and the ground-based BICEP2 and Keck Array experiments has found no conclusive evidence of primordial ...

Going a long way to do a quick data collection

Jan 30, 2015

Like many a scientist before me, I have spent this week trying to grow a crystal. I wasn't fussy, it didn't have to be a single crystal – a smush of something would have done – just as long as it had ...

How are planets formed?

Jan 30, 2015

How did the Solar System's planets come to be? The leading theory is something known as the "protoplanet hypothesis", which essentially says that very small objects stuck to each other and grew bigger and ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.